Long Wharf Theatre
Long Wharf Theatre is currently presenting the world premiere play, “Napoli, Brooklyn,” a solid and sobering new work by playwright Meghan Kennedy. With the title “Napoli, Brooklyn,” one would almost think that this play would be a feel-good Italian comedy. But, although there is certainly humor in this show, this play is actually quite serious, with some scenes of extreme domestic violence.
“Napoli, Brooklyn” is being premiered as a coproduction with New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company and, while it still needs some work, this current production is quite satisfying, with a stellar, mostly female-dominated cast. This play takes place in 1960 Brooklyn and director Gordon Edelstein has done a super job working with his cast and design team in bringing the show’s time period to life. “Napoli, Brooklyn,” at Long Wharf Theatre, is ultimately an important new work by Meghan Kennedy and the play’s themes feel both fresh and timely.
One of the strongest aspects of this production is the talented cast of performers. Though the show is mostly an ensemble piece, the character of Luda Muscolino, as portrayed by the impressive Alyssa Bresnahan, seems to stand out just a bit from the rest of the company. Pointedly, Bresnahan is the first actor the audience sees when the play starts and her frequent talks with God (mostly using a bunch of onions) highlight the play and give it an arch that it otherwise wouldn’t have. This actress gives a terrific performance and sets the tone of the show perfectly.
But just about everyone in the company does well and works at the same high level in “Napoli, Brooklyn.” Other standouts in the play are the three actresses who portray the daughters of Luda Muscolino and her husband Nic Muscolino, played with an almost terrifying force by Jason Kolotouros. In “Napoli, Brooklyn,” the sisterhood between these three young women is rock solid and extremely touching.
As the youngest of the siblings, Jordyn DiNatale is excellent as Francesca and the playwright is bold enough to explore Francesca’s provocative relationship with another girl, Connie. As played by the fine Ryann Shane, Connie is a source of light in Francesca’s life and one begins to root wholeheartedly that the two girls, even in 1960, will be able to find the happiness that they crave together.
Carolyn Braver, portraying the middle sister Vita, is a fiery force onstage and she spends the majority of the play in a convent that, as the audience begins to see, keeps her trapped against her will from the rest of the family. Christina Pumariega is equally good as the awkward, hardworking eldest sister Tina, who is the most formidable of the three girls. Figuring into the story, also, is Pumariega’s fellow worker, Celia, expertly and sympathetically played by Shirine Babb, who also scored highly in Long Wharf Theatre’s production of “Disgraced.”
Playing the two men in the play are the aforementioned Jason Kolotouros, as Nic, the father of the three sisters, and Graham Winton, who nicely portrays the kindly butcher in the show, Albert Duffy. Touching upon the character of Nic Mauscolino, it is important to mention that there are some seriously scary fight scenes in the show (staged extremely well by fight directors Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet), all of them instigated by Nic. Jason Kolotouros is almost unnerving in playing such a frightening character in the play and it is to the actor’s credit that his performance also manages to be multi-faceted, at times showing the layers under the violent behavior.
Director Gordon Edelstein has staged “Napoli, Brooklyn” very well and his collaboration with scenic designer Eugene Lee, costume designer Jane Greenwood, and lighting designer Ben Stanton is just terrific. This play and production are not always as they first seem, and one should be warned that there is a seriously jarring moment in the first act that literally shakes the entire theatre. Some of the themes and feelings that playwright Meghan Kennedy conjures up in “Napoli, Brooklyn” are also quite strong and eye-opening, and Long Wharf Theatre should be applauded for premiering such a striking new work. And, though “Napoli, Brooklyn” isn’t perfect, it is still the kind of play that one almost doesn’t want to see end.
“Napoli, Brooklyn” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through March 12, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.
Photo: (L-R): Christina Pumariega, Jordyn DiNatale, and Carolyn Braver
Photo by T. Charles Erickson